Lord Vile (Beastly Lords Book 3)(2)

By: Sydney Jane Baily

Fascinating, Ada thought, whenever she picked up her father’s well-read copy of The Banker’s Magazine or the Economist, infinitely more interesting than the silly romantic novels her friends were reading. She could listen for hours to her father espousing about what he encountered on the floor of the exchange, even though he was speaking primarily to her younger brother, Grady.

Gentlemen in search of a wife, however, didn’t want a young woman to have an interest in business. It was too manly!

Sighing loudly, Ada let her maid prepare her for yet another end of the Season soirée. Yes, the violet silk gown. Yes, hair up in a braided bun with blonde ringlets hanging from her temples past her ears. Yes, the matching lavender silk gloves, because why not? Yes, yes, yes. Except she didn’t want to go. Not really.

She looked at her blue eyes in the gilded mirror and hoped they didn’t appear as weary as she felt, and then she went to the Fontaine’s ball.

With her mother in her usual position seated with the other hopeful mothers nearby, Ada let her card be filled, holding out her wrist dutifully to every young man who asked. When had this become such a dreary chore?

The next hour passed in a carousel of dances—the Grand March, then a quadrille, polka, and waltz. When her mother wasn’t looking, she had a glass of champagne. Waving to Lady Adelia Smythe, the daughter of an earl but still very friendly and who also hadn’t found a match, Ada headed toward her when a man bumped her elbow as he brushed past.

“Well, excuse me,” she said loudly enough that he halted and turned.

Intending to take him to task for his rudeness, she pursed her lips and stared up at—

Ada had to stop herself from gasping. It was he! At last. Her viscount. Lord Michael Alder.

He narrowed his eyes as if studying her, perhaps to see if he knew her. When he didn’t, he relaxed and shrugged.

“My apologies.”

Good God! He was speaking to her. His voice sounded as she recalled, rich and deep, causing a delightful shiver in her spine.

Say something, she ordered herself, but her tongue was frozen. She could do naught but stare at his handsome face below thick brown hair that curled slightly, giving him a rakish air.

She’d never been close enough before to see how instead of plain brown eyes, his were a striking amber color. Unusual, reminding her of one of her family’s cats.

“Are you well?” he asked, undoubtedly thinking her addlepated as she gaped at him.

Nodding, still speechless, she did the only thing she could think of—she held out her wrist with the card dangling from it.

He looked at is as if it were on fire, practically recoiling.

“No,” he said, without preamble. “I don’t wish to dance.”

At her distraught expression, he added, “Not with anyone,” as if to soften the blow.

She swallowed. Think of something brilliant, amusing, interesting. Anything!

Then he nodded quickly, turned away, and disappeared into the throng.

Blast! She’d lost her one and only chance. Yet it didn’t truly matter. Obviously, she held no attraction for him, and whatever words she’d spouted wouldn’t have changed that fact. Especially not her personal notion one could become extraordinarily wealthy from investing in the developing technology of undersea cables. The newspapers indicated they would be laid between England and France within two years. She ought to have blandly praised the music, the champagne, or even Lord Alder’s ascot, or brought up Dickens’ latest.

Expelling an unladylike puff of air, she sent her golden bangs flying high with frustration. Then her next partner found her, perused her card for his name, and hauled her onto the dance floor.

Another eternal hour, during which she tried to spy Lord Alder while she twirled and spun. To no avail. Overheated by the crush of bodies, disappointed in not only this event but the entire Season, and even her future prospects, Ada left the security of the ballroom. In a hasty, ill-conceived moment, she ventured to the other side of the multi-paned glass doors and onto the marble terrace.

Unfortunately, there were couples who must have already publicly professed agreements as to their future associations since they were openly together, alone and unchaperoned. The practice was still frowned upon, but if the couple was engaged, the ton deemed it practically acceptable.

One such couple was a mere few yards from Ada and another was at the far end of the terrace. In each instance, the man held the woman close.

Ada rolled her eyes at the sheer awkwardness of being outside in a romantic spot without a suitor of her own. Between the couples were the stone steps leading to the wilds of the topiary and sculpture gardens.

In a flash, she darted down the steps and into the darkness.

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